One of the workshops that I attended was on the death penalty. This is a topic that has been in the news recently, but not with the goal Amnesty International (AI) has in mind. AI is working to abolish the death penalty; this is a topic, that I'll be honest, I had not given much thought to before this workshop. I mean, if you do something bad then you should be punished for it right? This concept of 'an eye for an eye', while in concept seems like a good idea, is not being carried to fruition successfully, as I learned.
The two facts that spoke to me the most were the economics of the death penalty and the effectiveness. Death penalties (beginning from the trial to execution) cost 3 times as much as a life sentence trial. 3.times. $2.3 million as compared to $750,000. Whoa! OK so may you're thinking, 'well that's ok as long as we're setting an example it's worth it'. Oh no my friend, a study conducted in 2009 by the Death Penalty Information Center wherein police chiefs across the nation were polled. The major consensus was that the death penalty is an ineffective deterrent for future crime. 88% of criminologists surveyed rejected the assertion that the death penalty is an effective deterrent. So wait, it's 3 times as expensive yet it is not as effective? Sounds like a bad deal to me!
Now let's get into the ethics and morals of this issue. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 139 people have been released from death row due to evidence of innocence. 139 people that would otherwise have been put to death. How is that justice? While the guarantee of a perfect system is impossible, we can ensure that a miscarriage of justice is not as great as to take an innocent person's life. As stated on the Amnesty USA website,
"The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights. By working towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, Amnesty International USA's Death Penalty Abolition Campaign looks to end the cycle of violence created by a system riddled with economic and racial bias and tainted by human error."
For more information about this issue:
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
What do you guys think of the abolition movement? Would you support an end to the death penalty (15 states already have!)?